Is Mystery Shopping a Scam? Make Sure You Find Legitimate Secret Shopper Jobs!

Is mystery shopping a scam? What exactly is it?Clipart - Spy Kid Outline 1.clipular

I’ve worked my fair share of retail jobs so I can say first hand I know mystery shopping is indeed real. Yes – you can get paid to shop, eat out, make phone calls, etc to established retail companies in exchange for your opinion and evaluation of the service you received.

Companies want to know how their service and establishment is perceived to the general public and they take the evaluations of mystery shoppers very seriously. Often times the employee has a script they must uphold to each and every customer, and mystery shoppers are one way of evaluating if they are actually sticking to it. But not only that, they are used to evaluate a range of factors anywhere from friendliness to cleanliness. At the grocery store I worked at, you could get written up and potentially fired if you received a bad mystery shop score! So yes, companies do take it seriously and are willing to pay for this service.

The companies themselves do not directly hire mystery shoppers, but they hire smaller market research companies to take care of it for them and provide them the data.

However, even though there are real companies out there looking for you to perform mystery shops, you still have to be careful. There are many scams going around that claim to be secret shopper opportunities so you have to know what to watch out for.

Here is some advice directly from the Federal Trade Commission on how to avoid mystery shopper scams:


The golden rule of mystery shopping – it’s free!

One thing that seems pretty consistent among the professionals of the field is that it’s free to be a mystery shopper.

There are seemingly endless websites that will require you to pay a fee to access their mystery shopping job boards, (actually, MOST of them) and many more sites that will “rank” the best mystery shopping sites. It actually took a bit of searching to get past the crap and find the free, legit mystery job job board postings.

It reminds me of those online survey scams. You can access online surveys for free, yet there are still companies out there that will try to charge you for the information. These paid mystery job sites are actually just scraping job postings that you could find for free somewhere else and charging you for it. And many times, they are jobs that are outdated or have already been filled.

Case in point – I came across a website called It is not a direct mystery shopping company, but a third party site that provides you job listings. They charge a monthly fee for this service, but since you can use the site as a free member with minimal access, I registered just to take a look. (All the other paid mystery shopping sites required a $30 up front fee). With the free membership you have the ability to view job postings, but you aren’t provided with the actual name of the company or any information on how to apply for the job.

However, when comparing it to the free job boards, it was remarkably similar (and by similar, I mean the same). Shadow Shopper charges you to view the same listings you can view on free job boards! 

Example of mystery shop job posting via ShadowShopper (if using their free version)


It’ll display the location, pay and type of assignment, but it will not tell you the name of the shop or how to apply.

It’s not that I’m accusing ShadowShopper of being a downright scam. Their monthly fee is nominal (less than $5 per month) and they provide you a service by showing you secret shopper jobs. But if technically you can view these jobs on free posting sites, like Violation and the MSPA – why would you pay for it?

Job Search.clipular

How much can you get paid as a secret shopper?

Shopping assignments vary in payment, but as you can see from the list on the right, they range anywhere from $2 – $25 (perhaps sometimes more) depending on what type of shop you are doing. Usually you’ll be reimbursed for your meal, merchandise or service (up to a certian dollar amount) so you can do these activities for essentially free.

You also have to figure the time and energy you’ll need to invest into each shop and decide whether the amount you recieve is worth it. How far will you have to travel and how much time will it take? Only you can assess whether it’s worth your time.

Where can I find mystery shopping jobs?

If you’re interested in becoming a mystery shopper, here’s a list of legitimate mystery shopping companies and job listings you can access for 100% free:

  1. – This provides a very thorough listing of direct mystery shopping companies. You’ll have to fiddle around on each of their websites to find their direct job postings/applications.
  2. – Use this link to directly search for opportunities in your area.
  3. – Another direct search for jobs in your area, provided by the MSPA – Mystery Shopping Providers Association.

Obviously your location is going to make a huge difference in the amount of jobs you can find. If you live in a huge city, you’ll likely have a lot more opportunities than someone who lives in a smaller town.

If you’re interesed in finding out about more legitimate work opportunities to supplement your income, feel free to read about my favorite program that taught me how to actually make money on the internet.


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